Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Mask That Might Have Been

Have you ever walked into a shop and heard something calling your name as though it had been waiting there for you, knowing you would recognize its worth?  Did you look it over, get a deep craving for it, think about all the reasons it should belong to you, and yet walked away without it, your pockets full of reasons as to why you absolutely had to resist it?  Years later, does it still enter your mind every once in awhile? 

It happened in New Orleans in February of 1990. I had already fallen in love with the city when I walked into a little shop in the French Quarter, The Little Shop of Fantasy.  They sold Mardi Gras masks and this was the week before the revelry would commence. I would not be there for the revelry, but that was irrelevant. I still wanted a mask. And not just any mask.

It was a soft brown suede with several feathers and other embellishments, but the centerpiece was a small skull from a calf, right near the top, just above the eyes. I wanted it bad. Alas, it was not cheap. $125 for a carnival mask was just not in my budget at the time. I lingered quite awhile trying to conjure up some justification for buying it. Eventually, I forced myself to walk away with  "the wants"  nipping at my heels.

I think about it now and then. Perhaps because I walked away it still nags at the edges of my memory. Had I bought it, it could well have passed away by now due to neglect, misuse, or too many moves (let's not linger on the misuse thing). It might have went the way of the charcoal drawing I had done in Jackson Square, the one where I looked like one of the Charmin girls gracing a package of bathroom tissue. I tell myself it's much better this way; it can remain forever intact, at the height of its beauty, hanging on an imaginary wall still waiting for that perfect moment.

So, Happy Fat Tuesday everyone!  What better way to enter a holy season than with drunken debauchery, colorful beads, and the baring of breasts?  None of which I'll be doing, by the way, tradition or not. But, I will think about my love for New Orleans: the French Quarter, Bourbon Street, Jackson Square, jambalaya, and that mask....


  1. Thinkin of pralines...yummmmmmmy! Oooh and of course jambalaya, but pralines afterward!

  2. Have you ever read "Confederacy of Dunces by O'Toole?" One of my all time favorite books. It takes place in New Orleans. Perhaps a bit dated now but I recently re-read it and I still love it.

    You do have the mask. You described it beautifully so it's in your mind. It's with you.
    Love and peace,

  3. Your mask reminds me of my "first love" in grade school...wish I hadn't run into him as an adult ;) Some things should remain beautiful dreams, even if tinged with regret.

  4. Happy Fat Tuesday....no beads or bare breasts here either. LMAO reading this...you're awesome. Love stopping in here.
    Sorry you didn't get the mask...but you could probably recreate it for much cheaper..if you still felt a need for it.

  5. It's hard to say no sometimes. I say no all the time when the consumerism bug creeps in when I actually get in a large store and see so much to buy and if one did buy and did not have a real purpose for it then what one buys is just a toy.

    Are you better off with the memory of the mask than actually having it.

  6. Lynn, How about pralines, jambalaya, then more pralines. Sound about right? :)

    Manzi, I belonged to a book discussion group many years ago and the very first book we read, sometime in 1978 I believe, was "Confederacy of Dunces." I'm going to have to re-read it now! The mask in my mind is still with me. Thank you. Love and Peace to you.

    Li, "Some things should remain beautiful dreams, even if tinged with regret." Dang it. I wish I'd written that. That's a great line! And so true.

    Karen, You may be right (I may be crazy?). I could recreate it, and for much cheaper. Unfortunately, I have several other imaginary projects that have not yet reached fruition... :) I will keep that option open, though. Thank you!

    One Fly (TB?), Yeah, I think I'm better off with the memory. Some things are like that. :)

  7. I only noticed one sign for pancakes today and really put on some miles.My neighbor just pulled in and has been gone all day, but I couldn't see if she was wearing beads.

  8. Steve, But was she showing any other signs of Fat Tuesday? :)

  9. Ahhh, you mean we won't see you on TV for doing anything 'risque'? Ummm, good for you!
    I love the colors of Mardi Gras and have visited once; a lovely wonderful happy time!!!

  10. Tracy, Not any time soon. :) Thanks for commenting, Tracy. New Orleans is a good city.

  11. I understand perfectly about the mask. When I spent a few days in Santa Fe, I created a "mental collection" of pots that called to me - some ancient and some new. Thanks for the reminder of New Orleans and Mardi Gras...I love that city and had I been thinking I'd have made crawfish etouffe for dinner tonight. Next year.

  12. Nancy, Pottery, a mental collection I can easily understand. SF offers some fine choices, doesn't it?

    Yum. The etouffe sounds good.

  13. I missed Fat Tuesday! For some reason I thought today was going to be tuesday - that's what happens now and then when retired - so I slipped straight into lent. None of it really fits our southern season anyway. I think I'll write to the Pope and ask for a calendar of our own. It was a Pope that created the northern one.
    Twice I was in Venice and didn't buy a mask which I sort regretted. The third time my friend 'made' me buy one. It is lovely but the memory masks in my head may just be better really.

  14. Joan, It's the "memory masks" that seem to linger. That letter to the Pope sounds like a good idea. :) So does going to Venice... No imminent uprisings there.

  15. I've never been to New Orleans - but when I go I want it to be during Mardi Gras. As for the "wants" - I say "no" more than I say "yes" these days. I have to - I'm a Realtor and right now I'm broke. But those few purchases that never were haunt all of us I think. Sometimes I feel that those were the "wants" that perhaps we should have indulged in....However, we only know which those are through the rear-view mirror.

  16. Ah, yes, the rear view mirror. It does tend to clarify things. Thank you for visiting my blog.

  17. I was traveling home to the PNW on Fat Tuesday, and now it's Ash Wednesday. I think the rain and lush greenery are a little immoderate for a day of penitence, but I'll take it. Love the story of the mask, Teresa. I agree that it's still there, since you have made it live to me!!

  18. DJan, In the spirit of the season, so to speak, I have a confession to make: I am not a Catholic. Never have been. But I'm willing to borrow from time to time. I could learn a little "in moderation." Especially when it comes to bread and chocolate chip cookies. Glad you're home, on terra firma, safe and sound.

  19. I missed Fat Tuesday! Darn! We all have those kinds of examples of Masks that we have missed!

  20. Hi Teresa,

    I can't think of anything that I've left at the store and thought about years later. You've retained a detailed description of that mask which leads me to think that you should visit EBay and see if you can find it -- at a discount.

    I've never been to Mardi Gras, Carnival, or spring break. Even as a young man, I doubt whether I would have enjoyed those kinds of wild celebrations for more than a day.

    1. Hi Ray, Thanks for visiting this post. I think it's in the not having that the wanting remains... I live with it joyfully. :)

      I'm not much of a reveler myself, but that mask was about it's beauty, what it represented....